director Edward Ludwig
I love me some stop-motion monsters. How I’ve missed seeing Edward Ludwig’s The Black Scorpion all these years, I’ll never know. Animated by Willis O’Brien and Pete Peterson, there are scorpions and more scoprions, a giant worm with arms, and even a six-legged giant trapdoor spider!
The stop-motion might have been done on the cheap (compared to O’Brien’s breakout stop-motion work in the original King Kong (1931)) but there’s quite a bit of it. For a low-budget B-picture from the brief heyday of the “giant animal” movies (Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957) to name a few), this is one of the few to feature stop-motion FX and action. Not just giant puppet props or forced perspective live action little creatures big. I’m all about stop-motion. Always was.
Shot in Mexico, the film is affable and enjoyable, especially if you have an affection for 1950’s horror movies like I do. Volcanoes are erupting, from the very first frame, and from deep within the bowels of the Earth emerge these long-dormant monsters that start attacking man and cattle. Guns can penetrate their exoskeletons. How are humans to defeat them?
Some of the action is cheaper than others, with silhouetted scorpions rampaging down streets of people. But much of it was quite good. According to lore, Peterson wound up doing most of the animation, apprenticing for O’Brien. Included on the DVD are a couple of long-lost short test films that Peterson made that are both really fun and cool to see. The close-ups of the scorpions, the image that is emblazoned on most of the posters for the film, is wonderfully lurid, camp silliness, especially with its near ever-present globs of drool.
If I’d seen this as a kid, I would have been pretty into it. As an adult, same.